Mitt Romney just took the stage in South Carolina. The crowd goes wild. "You should hear 'em when we win," Romney jokes. Romney does the requisite thanks, including Nikki Haley, the teabaggy governor of South Carolina who failed him miserably with her early strong support. "We're now three contests into a loooong primary season,' he says. "We've still got a long way to go. And tomorrow, we're going to move on to Florida. It's a state that has suffered terribly under the failed promises of President Obama."
Romney launches into the usual Obama-bashing, saying he wants to "fundamentally transform" the United States. He says he'll finally balance the U.S. budget. It all gets the requisite applause—the promise to repeal Obamacare, the rage against his strategy of "appeasement"—but it feels fairly rote. Now Romney is tying President Obama with an unnamed candidate—Gingrich—who "has not run a business and has not run a state..."
He accuses people who attack him—Gingrich—as attacking free enterprise. "We have seen a frontal assault on free enterprise," Romney says, adding we expected it from Obama, but not from within his party. "The Republican Party doesn't demonize prosperity, we celebrate success within our party."
Americans will demand "a real choice," Romney says, between the forces of freedom and prosperity and Obama, "and I think they'll choose us." He says the battle over job credentials is "a battle we can win." Obama says other candidates—Gingrich—who "demonize" prosperity are doing Obama's work. Then he promises to fight "in every state."
And that's basically it. Wow. Earlier tonight, I said that I thought Romney needed to turn in some sort of a humanizing performance tonight, that he had to give a little something extra of himself to defuse the characterization of him as an emotionless money-raising machine. He surely didn't do that. In the minutes since the speech, the Romney campaign has already announced more appearances for Romney in the media, including a Tuesday speech intended to counter President Obama's State of the Union address, laying out his plan for the nation. I'm not so sure that any of that matters, unless Romney can manage to change the way he delivers his message.